Westover Capital - The SECURE Act of 2019

The SECURE Act May Not Be So Secure

– by Murray Sawyer, JD, President and CEO and Matthew Beardwood, CFP®, Director of Wealth Management

The most significant retirement legislation in a decade was passed this week in Congress and will likely be signed into law immediately by President Trump, as part of a broader government spending bill.

We first reported on The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (known as the SECURE Act) back in May of this year when it quickly passed in the House of Representatives. While the name implies that this new legislation will help Americans with their retirement, not all the changes are for the good. 

The government estimates that over the next decade it will extract $15.7 billion from the pockets of IRA inheritors with the passage of this act. We’re reminded of that line in the song “Lyin’ Eyes”, a Grammy-winning ballad sung by the Eagles in 1975: “Every form of refuge has its price.”

The Main Takeaways of the SECURE Act

The legislation contains several modifications to the current law designed to help small business employees, home care workers, long-term part-time workers, and benefit annuity-issuing insurance companies, but as advisors, the main takeaways for us are the following:

  • Investors will be able to contribute to traditional IRAs for as long as they want after age 70 ½, instead of being stopped at that age under the previous law;
  • Retirees won’t have to take required minimum distributions until age 72 (changed from 70 ½); and
  • The so-called “Stretch” IRA will be eliminated for most IRA inheritors.

Of these 3, the most significant by far is the elimination of the Stretch IRA.

Implications for the Stretch IRA

The Stretch IRA has become a staple estate planning. It was a technique that allowed IRA beneficiaries to take distributions over the course of their actuarial lifetimes. Think small payout, small taxes and stretching the IRA over an extended period with tax-advantaged investment gains all the while. 

Under the new law, IRA beneficiaries will be required to deplete their inherited IRAs within 10 years. In plain words, IRA distributions will be subject to higher taxes and sooner, as distributions are made in larger amounts over a shorter period to the beneficiaries.

For example, a 23-year-old who inherited a Roth IRA under the old rules could take required payouts over 60 years while those assets kept growing; now they will need to be exhausted within 10 years. Ed Slott, a CPA and nationally recognized IRA specialist, has estimated that this hypothetical 23- year-old with a $1 million Roth IRA could receive a total of $23 million over that 60-year span. But with the 10- year rule in place, the heir would receive about $16 million, or 30% less over the same 60-year period. (This assumes a 6% annual rate of return, a 25% average tax rate, and no withdrawals from the Roth under the new law until the end of the 10th year. Amounts are unadjusted for inflation). Unless your name is Bill Gates, we’ll bet you probably could find good use for an extra $10 million over your lifetime.

Under the new law, IRA beneficiaries will be required to deplete their inherited IRAs within 10 years. In plain words, IRA distributions will be subject to higher taxes and sooner, as distributions are made in larger amounts over a shorter period to the beneficiaries.

There are some exceptions to the 10-year rule, namely surviving spouses and certain beneficiaries (minor children and people with disabilities).

Strategies for IRA Owners to Consider

These legislative changes require IRA owners to revisit their plans. The good news is there are sound planning strategies and workarounds to consider.

  1. Roth Conversions: A conversion is a great way to ease future tax burdens. Although the account owner would have to pay the taxes now, the beneficiary withdrawals would be tax-free under current tax law. With tax rates expected to increase in the future, retirees could presumably pay less in taxes now than their beneficiaries would pay had the funds stayed in a traditional IRA. Nevertheless, even Roth IRA beneficiaries would be subject to the 10-year payout rule.
  2. Charitable Donations: Consider using IRA assets to make charitable donations during life as well as at death, instead of other available assets. Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD) allow retirees to make donations directly from their IRA to a qualified charity. The amount given to charity is excluded from taxable income. Because IRA distributions are taxed as ordinary income, this is a very tax-efficient way to support those causes that are important to you. Charitable distributions from an IRA at death receive a charitable deduction equal to the amount of the gift, thereby reducing the size of the decedent’s estate.
  3. Bequest Non-IRA Assets: Instead of passing on the IRA to their heirs, IRA owners could spend down those assets and bequeath assets from their taxable (investment) accounts instead. Assets in taxable accounts, such as stocks, receive a step-up in basis at death. Because the beneficiaries are free to sell inherited stocks whenever they wish, they can better time their sales to minimize taxes. These assets are also subject to more favorable capital gains taxes as opposed to IRA assets, which are subject to ordinary income tax rates.

Every individual’s circumstances are different, so these recommendations may not apply to all, but if you have IRA assets, now is the time to review your beneficiary designations within the context of your estate plan. We would welcome the opportunity to review your circumstance and provide you with our best possible advice.

Adieu, Stretch IRA, adieu.

Best wishes for a Happy Holiday Season!

Westover Capital - Cybersecurity

Pick Your Poison

– by Matthew Beardwood, CFP®, Director of Wealth Management

Pick your poison by time by the year, day, or second. Did you know that this year 1 million new computer virus infections have been launched, or that 700 new phishing campaigns have been created per day, or that new malware is created every 4 seconds?

At Westover, we are dedicated not only to protecting our clients’ data and confidential information but also to educating our clients on ways to minimize their risk of cyber theft.

For those clients and guests who attended Lawrence Husick’s recent Westover Luncheon Series presentation, it was a sobering reminder of the existential threat that exists when bad actors attempt to acquire personal information, including everything from creating spam accounts, misusing phone numbers and email addresses to apply for credit, and to transferring money illegally. Mr. Husick is an intellectual property attorney, scholar (Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute), co-director of its Center for the Study of Terrorism and cyber technology consultant.

Westover Capital Advisors - Data SecurityFor those of you who were unable to join us, I invite you to watch his full thirty-minute presentation on our website (HERE). And for summary coverage of our event, see the report on Town Square Delaware, (HERE).

In addition, and as a public service, we list below some proactive, practical steps you can take to protect your personal information while online:

1. Use unique passwords: One of the simplest ways to keep your personal information secure is by varying passwords. Well over half of hacking-related breaches leverage stolen credentials. Varying your passwords will help make it tougher for cybercriminals to use credentials stolen from one site to access your data on another.

2. Vary your usernames: This principle is the same as with passwords. Using different logins, especially for financial apps, can provide an added layer of protection. Avoid using your primary email address as your username whenever possible.

3. Verify your identity: Use two-step verification to help protect your personal data online. This is one of the most secure ways to log in to your app or device. As the name suggests, “two-step verification” requires two steps to log into an account. For example, an app may require you to provide your password in combination with your thumbprint or the entry of a passcode sent via text to your smartphone. If you do nothing else, this is super easy and very secure.

Use two-step verification to help protect your personal data online. This is one of the most secure ways to log in to your app or device.

4. Use private internet connections or a personal virtual private service: Before opening a financial app or making a purchase online, find a private location so “strangers” cannot see your screen, and make sure you’re connected to a private, secure Wi-Fi access point. Several VPNs that are highly rated are ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and CyberGhost. Avoid public Wi-Fi at all costs.

5. Keep personal information up to date: Update your contact information and enable alerts on all your financial apps to ensure you receive timely notice of suspicious account activity, allowing you to react quickly to unauthorized access.

6. Consider the use of a Password Vault Manager. LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password are three, and there are others. Mr. Husick recommended the latter. They will assist you in generating and retrieving complex passwords, will store such passwords in an encrypted database or will calculate them for you on demand.

Implementing simple safety measures will help secure your financial information and better protect your identify, assets and your legacy. As always, we are here to answer your questions and help in any way.

Westover Capital - Chart Data

The Race to Zero

– by Chip Sawyer, CFA, Chief Investment Officer

In case you didn’t see the news, TD Ameritrade is eliminating base commissions for online exchange-listed stock and ETF trades, moving from $6.95 per trade to $0.00. To learn more about this announcement, please see the company press release for additional details (HERE).

TD Ameritrade has been and remains a valued strategic partner of Westover Capital Advisors. We’re thrilled by their move to lower the costs of investing and trading for our clients. The change went into effect on October 3, 2019.

Assuming brokerage firms don’t start paying us to make trades (and, never say never, considering there are negative interest rates overseas), this appears to be the logical and inevitable end of a four-decade trend toward less expensive stock pricing, trading, and transaction costs.

Stock Trade Commissions Pre-1975

Here’s the history: In May 1975, the SEC abolished the fixed-commission model that had ruled Wall Street since its inception. Before that “May Day,” it was not uncommon for the Wall Street customer to be charged hundreds of dollars for one simple stock trade. That monumental 1975 change gave birth to the discount broker model, with Charles Schwab being the pioneer. Yet, notwithstanding that change, old school egregious three-figure commission costs continued to be charged by non-discount Wall Street brokerage houses well into this century.

Thanks to technology advances and competition, Westover Capital’s investment advisory clients will know that when we choose investments, each stock and ETF trade we execute will be both priced fairly and commission-free.

When I started in this business in the late 1990s, not only were stock trading commissions potentially in the hundreds of dollars per trade, but stock prices were set in fractions of a dollar rather than in the pennies they are today. This added an additional cost to each trade, as bid-ask spreads were 6 to 13 times as large as they are now.

I take my hat off to our free market system. Thanks to technology advances and competition, which are inherent in a capitalist economy, our investment advisory clients will know that when we choose investments, each stock and ETF trade we execute will be both priced fairly and commission-free.

It’s truly a great time to be an investor.

Feel free to contact us with any questions or if you would like more information.

Westover Capital - Cybersecurity Presentation

Westover Luncheon Series Welcomes Cybersecurity Expert Lawrence Husick

On September 26, 2019, Westover Capital hosted the latest in our Luncheon Series featuring internationally renowned cybersecurity expert, Lawrence Husick of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Husick’s message to our audience was powerful. “The fact is, any time you use the open internet to share or transfer information, you risk the information can be tampered with. The solution is to undertake this as a national emergency. And to break out of our bubbles so that we are aware that conflicting messages are being channeled our way. It takes having your eyes and ears open and being aware.”

Westover Capital and Cybersecurity Expert Lawrence Husik

Our President and CEO, Murray Sawyer, noted that Husick’s unique knowledge and perspective are vitally important for families and individuals, particularly when it comes to protecting personal data and managing finances online.

Click here for more in-depth coverage of the event from Town Square Delaware.

New Retirement Act Passes House; Gives Rise to Important Planning Opportunity

– by Murray Sawyer, JD, President and CEO

Who says cats and mice can’t play nicely together?

On Thursday, May 23rd, the House of Representatives by near unanimity passed a significant retirement bill. The vote was 417 to 3. Its acronym is SECURE, which is short for Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement. It’s a Big Deal and augurs the biggest changes to retirement plans in a decade.

I have no doubt the cats and mice in the Senate will play nice too. In fact, I’ll go so far as to predict that this legislation will be passed as fast as a Mercedes AMG S63 on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Or as fast at Sunday’s Indy 500 winner can race around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In this era of Pelosi/Schumer v. Trump, both houses are desperate to have some legislative success to point the voter to, don’t you think?

Key Components of the SECURE Act

There’s a whole bunch of fluff in the Act designed to help small business employees, home care workers, long-term part-time workers, and benefit annuity-issuing insurance companies which I’ll ignore, but to cut to the chase. The three main takeaways are these:

1. The biggest takeaway is this one. The ability to provide a significant benefit to your children through a so-called “Stretch IRA” is greatly limited. Today, children-beneficiaries can take withdrawals over their lifetimes. With the passage of this legislation, if you are an adult child who inherits an IRA, you must take withdrawals over a ten-year period. (And as an incidental result, this is projected to generate $16 billion for the U.S. Treasury which it would not have otherwise enjoyed. Why am I not surprised?)

2. You may make contributions to IRAs at any age, even after you turn 70.5. The point here is that you could continue to make contributions to IRAs for your entire lifetime.

3. The RMD clock, the mandatory time when you need to start taking withdrawals from traditional IRAs, is pushed back from 70.5 years of age to 72. I never knew what the magic of 70.5 was anyway, so this is good, so long as you can afford to wait.

How the Legislation Might Affect You

The main planning point to come out of this legislation is our general recommendation that clients strongly consider the possibility of using Roth conversions with respect to existing IRAs, or parts thereof.

Remember, the window for Roth conversions at a favorable tax rate is time limited. Personal income tax rates will soon enough go back up come 2026, when the lower income tax rates and brackets of the 2017 Tax Act are scheduled to sunset. Today, a step-by-step, year-over-year conversion may make sense for you because then your children would enjoy their Roth IRA inheritance tax-free, with you having paid the taxes at the time(s) of conversion.

Every individual’s circumstances are different, so this recommendation will not apply to all, but please reach out to us if you would like us to discuss your particular circumstances.

And enjoy this glorious Memorial Day weekend. Ladies and gentlemen start your engines!

Keep the faith.

2019 Westover Summit: Speaker Paul Begala

9th Annual Westover Summit - Paul Begala, Murray Sawyer, Chip Sawyer, and Matt Beardwood

We are pleased to announce the successful completion of Westover’s 9th Annual April Summit featuring political pundit and former strategist, Paul Begala. Begala’s remarks, delivered to an audience of clients, media, and friends of the firm, covered many prescient topics in the current political and economic landscape.

To learn more, please see Town Square Delaware’s coverage of the event by clicking here.

As our Director of Wealth Management, Matt Beardwood, notes in the article, “Paul’s remarks were spot on. We feel that creating a forum like this for our clients not only engages and inspires them but can also challenge or provide support to their political and economic world view.“




Westover Capital Advisors - Fireworks

First Quarter 2019 Snapshot

– by Chip Sawyer, CFA® and Chief Investment Officer

It has been a great start to the year for both the stock and bond markets, which is a welcome change from last year when cash was the best performing asset. Most equity indices were up double digits for the first quarter, and the bond market was up over 2%.

The majority of the quarter’s gains occurred in January when the market correctly anticipated the Fed reversing their hawkish tone from late last year. In general, investors preferred the more cyclical sectors as tech, industrials, and energy were the best performing sectors while healthcare, staples, utilities, and financials were the worst performing sectors.

We have yet to see a confirmation of this recession signal from the Leading Economic Indicators Index, which also does a good job of predicting recessions. Therefore, we still believe this bull market will continue.

The end of March saw the first inversion of the yield curve since 2007 when the 3-month Treasury yielded more than the 10-year Treasury for a brief five days. That has since reversed with the 10-year currently yielding about 8 basis points more than the 3-month. Historically, inversions like this have been a pretty accurate indicator signaling a recession is on the horizon.

However, in none of the previous seven inversions was the 10-year Treasury yielding less than 5% (currently, the 10-year is yielding about 2.5%). Current short-term rates of 2.5% would not have come close to inverting the curve in the past, so it may very well be “different this time.” Clearly, our 10-year Treasury would be much higher if not for the ridiculously low-interest rates seen overseas (where trillions of dollars of debt has negative yields).

We have yet to see a confirmation of this recession signal from the Leading Economic Indicators Index, which also does a good job of predicting recessions. Therefore, we still believe this bull market will continue.

If you want to know more or would like us to review your personal financial picture and offer our best advice, we encourage you to give us a call!

April 2019. Westover Capital Advisors, LLC. All rights reserved.

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

– by Murray Sawyer, JD, President and CEO

News happens fast now. Today’s new and timely story will soon be tomorrow’s forgotten tale. It is easy to miss things now because of how quickly stories get turned around, as our attention is diverted to the next “New, New Thing”. Daily, we are inundated with a veritable fire hydrant flow of news through social media. Every so often, we need to take the pedal off the gas, step out of our fast lane; we need to slow down just for a minute to appreciate and celebrate a notable and newsworthy accomplishment. This is one of those occasions.

Chip, Matt and I want to congratulate our close and dear friend, George Alderman. George has just been inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame for the class of 2019.

Westover Capital Congratulates George Alderman

The picture above is early-‘70s and George is celebrating another race car victory with his dear wife, Marilyn, who passed away a few years ago.

George grew up in Delaware, graduating from Newark High School. In addition to owning Alderman Automotive, George Alderman Racing and the local Datsun/Nissan dealership back in the day, his avocation, which he pursued with a true passion, was race car driving.

George spent 49 years as one the country’s top race car drivers, competing in Sportscar Club of America (SCCA) and International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) events.

He was named the Sports Car Club of America Formula 3 national champion in a Cooper-Norton in 1960 and also their national champion in a Formula Libre Cooper-Alfa in 1964. He drove a Lotus 23 to the SCCA divisional championship in 1966 and a McLaren Chevy to the Governor’s Cup in 1967 SCCA NE divisional championship. George won the IMSA Baby Grand championship in 1971 in a Datsun 510 and the 1974 BFG Radial Challenge Series championship in an AMC Gremlin. In the 1980s, he drove Datsun Z cars in the Camel GT series and had five wins and 50 top 10 finishes in 70 starts. Now that’s Tigeresque!

He competed in his final race just a mere two days shy of his 70th birthday.

Please join us as we salute George for this wonderful recognition!

Keep the faith.

April 2019. Westover Capital Advisors, LLC. All rights reserved.

Westover Capital - WealthView Financial Management Platform

Introducing Westover’s WealthView

– by Murray Sawyer, JD, President and CEO

For nearly twenty years, Westover has served the needs of our clients and their families, and for some over multiple generations. We are aware of the unique circumstances that apply to each of our clients, and are both mindful of and humbled by our role as a trusted advisor.

Whether it’s our client luncheon series we started last year or the rollout of the Westover mobile app we also initiated in 2018, we continuously challenge ourselves to provide relevant, thoughtful, and innovative enhancements to enrich and simplify our clients’ increasingly complex financial lives.

Westover Capital - WealthView Financial Management PlatformIn today’s fast-paced environment, safe access to real-time financial information is key to wealth advice and management. Intelligent use of technology continues to play an increasingly important role in this process.

To that end, we are excited to introduce WealthView, Westover’s new personal financial management platform. WealthView enables you to store, view and manage your entire financial picture in one place, whether on your PC or mobile device.

With WealthView, you can do things like aggregate all banking (checking, savings, mortgages, credit cards, etc.) and investment accounts – both those held at Westover and those held elsewhere. You can even include assets such as real estate, vacation homes, personal property, business interests, life insurance etc. WealthView will track spending, create budgets, build consolidated reports of your entire financial picture and keep track of important financial documents.

WealthView is a user-friendly, intuitive platform that compliments your existing Westover portal – bringing more data into view which allows us to bring more meaningful and specific advice to you. Those with whom we’ve met and introduced to WealthView have all been surprised and pleased with its intuitiveness and comprehensive aggregation capabilities.

If you’d like a tour of WealthView or want to learn more about your comprehensive financial picture, give us a call!

Keep the faith.

February 2019. Westover Capital Advisors, LLC. All rights reserved.

Westover Capital 2019 Tax and Wealth Planning Guide

2019 Tax and Wealth Planning Guide

Westover Capital 2019 Tax and Wealth Planning Guide

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) introduced significant changes to many areas of the U.S. tax system with adjustments scheduled to occur annually between now and 2025. To help make sense of the complex array of tax laws, Westover has researched and distilled these changes and is pleased to share our 2019 Tax and Wealth Planning Guide.

Please click here to download it.

For clients, we’ve uploaded the Guide to your Westover portal vault and we look forward to reviewing relevant areas of the guide with each of you at our next meeting.

We hope this will help those of you who are unsure about how evolving tax laws will affect your financial life.